FROSTBURG — There was a commotion in the stands of the Mountain Ridge High School wrestling team’s Jan. 14 match, when a local man’s heart stopped beating.
Assessing the situation, members of the public, including an athletic director, physical therapist and three Western Maryland Health System employees, were able to save the man’s life by performing chest compressions and using an automatic external defibrillator while waiting for an ambulance to arrive.
Health system workers Amanda Miller, an echosonographer, and Alexa Pattison, an MRI technologist, were at the event as spectators but noticed the commotion and saw the unidentified man in the stands.
They quickly rushed to help.
“My feet just took me there,” Miller said. “It felt like this bubble had descended over us.”
Kathleen Clark, a registered respiratory therapist, was recording her son’s wrestling match, but quickly became aware of the situation and went to help, too.
Dave Hobel, the Mountain Ridge athletic director, and Dylan Mowdy of Pivot Physical Therapy, also rushed to the scene, bringing with them the school’s AED.
Miller said she and Mowdy applied the patches to the man’s chest while Pattison performed compressions. The group had to shock the man with the AED twice, Miller said as she described how the rescuers switched positions to allow Mowdy to do compressions.
Eventually, the man was revived.
The three health system employees are Basic Life Support certified, and are required to renew that certification every two years. As part of the certification, they learned how to use an AED.
Going through training, you can think that it’s a thing you do and re-up every two years, Miller said, but “in that situation I really knew what to do.”
According to Allegany County Department of Emergency Services Chief Christopher Biggs, the first ambulance arrived at 7:43 p.m., five minutes after the 911 call.
Pattison said it was the longest minutes of their lives.
“The health system staff that were on the scene that evening saved this man’s life,” Biggs said. “Our pre-hospital clinicians continued to stabilize the patient and provided a rapid transport to the most appropriate cardiac intervention facility, in this case, Western Maryland Regional Medical Center.
According to the American Heart Association, in 2018, 356,461 people died in the United States after a sudden cardiac arrest. The heart association reports that more people are surviving sudden cardiac arrest because of increased training and public access AEDs.
“Rates of survival have increased over the last decade because of increased layperson training and public access AEDs at malls, public buildings and specific to this event, the high school,” Biggs said.
“This incident had a positive outcome; one that we can only wish all incidents had,” he said. “We want to stress to citizens that if you are having chest pain, trouble breathing or other systems that could be related to a cardiac event, to seek medical attention immediately.”
The EMS crew made up of paramedics Travis Mayhew, Scott Williams and David Sweitzer and technician Kimberly Reichert, under the direction of Lt. Matthew Krause, transported the man to the hospital.
When taking the man down from the higher part of the stands on a backboard, Clark said, people in the crowd helped to slowly hand the guy down.
“That whole gym was there for that man,” said Pattison. “When I go out now I look to see where they have one (AED).”
Since 2015, all schools in the Allegany County Public Schools district are required to have an AED, said Mia Cross, public information officer.
“These devices have been in schools for years. Those that were here acted swiftly and were on top of things,” said Danny Carter, Mountain Ridge principal. “That one time of saving that man’s life alone justifies having them in schools.”
Follow staff writer Brandon Glass on Twitter @Bglass13.